Sparrowhawk shot and another suspected shot – Police & SSPCA investigate

Police Scotland and the Scottish SPCA have launched an investigation after the confirmed shooting of a sparrowhawk and the suspected shooting of another, found in the same area of Renfrewshire in April, one week apart.

The following article is from the Daily Record (dated 15th July 2022):

Two birds of prey ‘shot dead’ in Renfrewshire as probe launched.

Animal welfare chiefs say they suspect that two birds of prey have been shot dead in the space of a week.

The Scottish SPCA is working with Police Scotland as they look into the incidents after a firearm was confirmed as being used in one of the Sparrowhawk’s death.

One bird had to be put to sleep, while another was found dying with suspicious injuries which the SSPCA believe may be linked. A bird initially thought to have been stunned was found on Lochwinnoch Golf Course, Renfrewshire, on April 5 but its injuries were unsurvivable.

An undercover Scottish SPCA special investigations unit inspector said: “It was initially thought that the bird had been stunned but upon examination at the Scottish SPCA National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Fishcross, it was discovered that they had been shot.

This caused a catastrophic shoulder injury and sadly resulted in the bird having to be put to sleep.

Another member of the public also reported finding another sparrowhawk the week before, which was bleeding from the wing. Unfortunately, that bird died before help could be called for.

It is unknown if they had also been shot but it’s certainly very suspicious that two sparrowhawks with similar injuries were found in the same area only a week apart.

We are working closely with Police Scotland to establish the circumstances around the bird’s injuries due to the use of a firearm in the incident.

We would like to find out what happened to this sparrowhawk.

If anyone witnessed anything or has any information they feel may be relevant they can contact our confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999 or Police Scotland on 101, quoting incident number KB01540722 of 5 April 2022.”

ENDS

Gloucestershire Police appeal for info after goshawk found shot in Forest of Dean

Press release from Gloucestershire Constabulary (13th June 2022)

Appeal for information after birds of prey are found dead in the Forest of Dean

Officers are appealing for information after two birds of prey were found dead in the Forest of Dean.

A Goshawk and Sparrowhawk were found next to a bus stop just south of Aylburton near Lydney on the A48 by a member of the public on Monday 25 April.

The male Goshawk was just under 17-years-old and X-rays show that the bird had been shot with a shotgun.

The cause of death has not yet been established for the male Sparrowhawk however post mortems will take place for both birds. 

[The shot goshawk. Photos via Gloucestershire Constabulary]

PC Cath McDay said: “This is an awful crime under the Countryside and Wildlife Act 1981, to truly special birds

The Goshawk had managed to live to an exceptional age only for his life to be ended like this.”

Enquiries are ongoing and investigating officers are asking anyone with information on the incident to please get in contact.

Information can be submitted by completing the following form online and quoting incident number 130 of 25 April: https://www.gloucestershire.police.uk/tua/tell-us-about/cor/tell-us-about-existing-case-report/    

Alternatively, you can call 101 and quote the same incident number or speak to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

ENDS

Photos released of shot sparrowhawk found glued to a stick & dumped in a ditch in Doncaster

Three days ago, South Yorkshire Police appealed for information after a sparrowhawk was shot dead, glued to a stick, wrapped inside a plastic bag and dumped in a drainage ditch (here).

The grisly discovery was made by a member of the public in the Thorne area of Doncaster, close to the canal, on Sunday 10th April.

Photos have now been released, including an x-ray showing the pellet embedded in the bird’s body:

Investigating officer PC Sarah Barrowcliffe of South Yorkshire Police said:

Sparrowhawks are a protected species and it is an offence to harm themThis was a shocking act of violence against a beautiful and defenceless bird, and officers are working hard to identify those responsible.

South Yorkshire Police is committed to the investigation of serious wildlife offences, including the killing of birds of prey.

Anyone with information please call South Yorkshire Police on Tel 101, quoting incident number #918 of April 11th 2022.

Sparrowhawk shot, glued to a stick & dumped inside plastic bag in Doncaster

South Yorkshire Police is appealing for information after a sparrowhawk was shot dead, glued to a stick, wrapped inside a plastic bag and dumped in a drainage ditch.

The grisly discovery was made by a member of the public in the Thorne area of Doncaster, close to the canal, on Sunday 10th April. The bird is believed to have been shot with a pellet gun.

[Sparrowhawk photo by Getty]

Investigating officer PC Sarah Barrowcliffe of South Yorkshire Police said:

Sparrowhawks are a protected species and it is an offence to harm them. This was a shocking act of violence against a beautiful and defenceless bird, and officers are working hard to identify those responsible.

South Yorkshire Police is committed to the investigation of serious wildlife offences, including the killing of birds of prey.

Anyone with information please call South Yorkshire Police on Tel 101, quoting incident number #918 of April 11th 2022.

UPDATE 30th May 2022: Photos released of shot sparrowhawk found glued to a stick and dumped in a ditch in Doncaster (here)

Two gamekeepers expelled from BASC after wildlife crime convictions

The British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC) has expelled two of its members following convictions for wildlife crimes.

The two expelled members are gamekeeper Hilton Prest from Cheshire who was convicted in December 2021 and gamekeeper Shane Leech from Suffolk who was convicted in November 2021.

Unusually, BASC posted an announcement about the expulsions on its website last week:

I say ‘unusually’ because although I’m aware of previous expulsions from game-shooting organisations following wildlife crime convictions, these are not common and when they do happen we tend to see vague statements sometime later, such as, ‘The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has expelled five members in recent years‘, but there’s rarely any evidence provided by which to authenticate the claim.

I’d argue that this rare open & transparent statement from BASC is as a result of long-term campaigning by conservationists to get the shooting organisations to back up their claims of having ‘zero tolerance of raptor persecution’. I also see it as a sign that the shooting organisations are feeling the increasing pressure imposed by campaigners, forcing the shooting industry to show Government policy-makers that it can self-regulate and thus avoid the inevitable enforced regulation that is hurtling towards them in the near distance, following on the heels of the forthcoming regulation in Scotland.

Good work, everybody, and especially to the multi-agency teams (Suffolk & Cheshire Police, RSPB Investigations, Natural England, National Wildlife Crime Unit, Crown Prosecution Service) that secured the convictions of these two gamekeepers after months of painstaking work.

Another gamekeeper convicted as another bird of prey starves to death in illegally-operated trap

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the conviction of a 53-year-old gamekeeper in the Scottish Borders, Peter Givens, who was responsible for an illegally-operated trap in which a barn owl and a goshawk had starved to death (see here). I’ll be blogging more about that case shortly as some interesting things have come to light.

Fast forward two weeks and today another gamekeeper, 58-year-old Hilton Prest, has been convicted for an almost identical offence, this time causing a sparrowhawk to starve to death inside an illegally-operated trap in Bosley, Cheshire, in February this year.

[The dead sparrowhawk inside the crow cage trap. Photo by RSPB]

The RSPB has published a press release about this latest conviction, which I’ll reproduce below, and then I’ll add some commentary at the end.

RSPB press release, 16th December 2021:

Man fined after sparrowhawk starves to death in trap

An amateur gamekeeper has received an £800 fine after a sparrowhawk starved to death in a trap in Cheshire.

At Manchester Magistrates’ court today (16 December 2021), Hilton Prest pleaded guilty to unlawfully using a trap on or before 10/2/21 contrary to Sec 5(1)(b) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. He was fined £800 (plus £85 costs and £80 victim surcharge). A charge against a second man was discontinued. 

On 10 February 2021, a member of the public found a sparrowhawk alive in a cage trap on land managed for gamebird shooting near Bosley. Cage traps are large mesh traps designed so a bird can get in but not out. They can be used legally, under license, to control crows, and must be checked every 25 hours. Any non-target birds caught accidentally must be released unharmed during daily inspections. When not in use the doors on such traps must be removed or secured open so birds cannot be caught.

There was snow on the ground and no shelter or water for the bird. The door to the trap was closed, so the member of the public opened it slightly, hoping the sparrowhawk would escape. Concerned for the bird’s welfare, they later provided the trap’s location to the RSPB.

[The juvenile sparrowhawk caught inside the trap during freezing weather in Feb 2021. Photo by RSPB]

RSPB Investigators attended the following day, 17 February, however they found the sparrowhawk (later confirmed as the same bird) dead inside the trap. There were also the remains of a blackbird, which had presumably attracted the sparrowhawk inside, and some grain, which had presumably attracted the blackbird. Despite the door being ajar, it appeared the sparrowhawk had been unable to escape and starved to death.

Cheshire Police were notified and the body of the bird sent for post-mortem examination. A veterinary pathologist confirmed the bird had died of starvation and would have experienced considerable unnecessary suffering inside the trap. (The veterinary work was funded by money from Wild Justice’s Raptor Forensic Fund, provided to support such cases, and administered by the PAW Forensic Working Group.) Two men were later interviewed by the police and reported for offences in relation to the unlawful use of the trap. 

District Judge Mr Jack McGarver said that he accepted that the act was careless rather than reckless or intentional, but that the degree of carelessness was high, and that it was well below the standard that was expected.

He added: “The sparrowhawk is a beautiful native creature which is entitled to be protected.”

Tom Grose, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “An unattended set trap in sub-zero temperatures was a death sentence for both birds.

If a trap is no longer in operation, it must be disabled in such a way that no bird can become caught. The operator has a duty of care to ensure that this happens, and that no birds can become caught inside. This duty of care was not met.

This is yet another example of why Natural England must improve the general license conditions for disabling these traps, in line with conditions in Scotland. We are aware of a number of other birds, including buzzards and a goshawk, that have starved to death inside cage traps which appear not to have been properly disabled. In this case, a simple padlock securing the door wide open would have saved the life of this blackbird and this sparrowhawk. This needs to be addressed to ensure no more birds perish in this sad and wasteful way.”

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, or a trap with a bird of prey caught inside, phone the police on 101, email RSPB Investigations at crime@rspb.org.uk or fill in the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx

ENDS

First of all, well done to the RSPB’s investigations team, working with Cheshire Police, to bring this case to court and secure a conviction.

The penalty given to gamekeeper Prest (£800 fine plus £85 costs and £80 victim surcharge) is higher than that given to gamekeeper Givens (£300 fine plus £20 victim surcharge) even though two Schedule 1 species had died as a result of Givens’ offence so once again sentencing consistency is lacking.

What’s really interesting though is the difference in the trapping rules between Scotland and England. In the Scottish case, it could be shown quite easily that Givens was operating an unlawful trap because (a) in Scotland the General Licence requires that the trap user be identified by a code attached to each trap (this is not a requirement in England because statutory agency Natural England hasn’t bothered to introduce it), and (b) in Scotland, when the trap is not in use the trap operator MUST do the following, as a condition of the General Licence:

Any trap not in use must be immobilised and rendered incapable of use. For multi-catch cage traps, the access doors must be removed from the site or securely padlocked open so that no bird can be confined‘.

This is a clear instruction – you either padlock the door open or you remove it completely if the trap is not in use. It’s unambiguous.

However, the equivalent General Licence condition in England is nowhere near as clear cut and can lead to all sorts of ‘accidents’ and excuses.

In England, the General Licence condition says this:

When you are not using a trap, it must not be capable of holding or catching animals.

You must secure trap doors in a fully open position, or remove the doors completely from the site‘.

Then there’s an add-on bit of ‘advice’ underneath, that says:

Padlocks are the most secure way to secure trap doors open, but cable ties or wire may also be suitable‘.

Crucially, this ‘advice’ is not legally binding, so a trap operator in England could legally use a rock or a piece of baler twine to ‘secure trap doors in a fully open position’ but both these techniques, and others, are not bomb proof and a door could ‘accidentally’ close, preventing a trapped bird from a means of escape. Padlocking the door or removing the door completely provides a trapped bird with a route to escape.

Quite why Natural England hasn’t incorporated this very simple but effective condition into its General Licence is a matter of bemusement for many of us. It’s really not that difficult, is it?

And if game-shooting organisations were as interested in protecting birds of prey as they claim to be, they’d be pushing for this very simple measure, too.

Man charged in connection with death of raptor in Inverness-shire

Some very good news!

Police Scotland has issued the following statement this afternoon:

A 22-year-old man has been arrested and charged in connection with the death of a sparrowhawk in Inverness-shire.

Officers were called to land south of Inverness following a report of a bird of prey which had been killed on Thursday, 16 September.

The man has been charged with wildlife crime offences following a police investigation and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

Detective Chief Superintendent Laura McLuckie, Police Scotland’s lead for wildlife crime, said: “We are committed to tackling wildlife crime in the Highlands and work closely with a range of partners to ensure all incidents are thoroughly investigated.

We know this is an issue which concerns many people in communities across the region and I would encourage anyone who has concerns about wildlife crime in their area to call Police Scotland on 101.”

ENDS

As the individual has now been charged no more can be said about this prosecution until court proceedings commence. Suffice to say this case will be of significant interest to readers of this blog and, I dare say, Government officials. I’ll be following it closely.

Well done to the police wildlife crime officers in the Highland division of Police Scotland – the charging of this man is as a result of some top-level police work, with officers responding at significant speed. That they’ve also produced a press statement is excellent.

Compare and contrast with the frankly pathetic response of wildlife crime officers in the Tayside division in relation to the shot peregrine and illegally trapped long-eared owl that I’ve been blogging about this week (see here and here).

This inconsistency of approach is hugely frustrating and I hope will be addressed by senior officers responsible for dealing with wildlife crime at a national level.

RSPCA appeals for information after sparrowhawk shot in Scunthorpe

Article from the Lincolnite, written by Ellis Karran, dated 13 November 2020.

Bird of prey had to be put down after it was shot with an air rifle

RSPCA investigating the case

The RSPCA is appealing for tighter controls on air weapons after a sparrowhawk was put to sleep due to being shot by an air rifle in Scunthorpe.

The bird was found lying on its back with its wings out after flying out of woods near Darnholme Crescent on Wednesday, before crashing into a car because of its injuries from the gunshot.

A passer-by spotted the bird of prey and contacted the RSPCA who brought it in for treatment.

The decision was made to put the sparrowhawk down as a result of its injuries, with the bird’s chest and wing damaged beyond repair and rehabilitation being impossible.

[Photos by RSPCA]

RSPCA inspector Claire Mitchell, investigating the case, said: “This poor sparrowhawk was in a very bad way after being shot and after further assessment, very sadly the decision was made to put the bird to sleep to end its suffering.

It is likely that the bird was shot with an air gun while in flight, and it is very concerning that somebody in the area was taking shots at wildlife in this way.

Whilst there are some shooting practices which are legal, it is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act to intentionally injure, kill or take a wild bird, except under licence.

Anyone found guilty could face an unlimited fine and/or six months imprisonment.

The animal welfare charity are now appealing for information about the incident, asking anyone who can help resolve this incident to call 0300 1238018.

ENDS

Lamb euthanised after stepping on illegally-set spring trap in North York Moors National Park

A lamb has been euthanised after being found in the North York Moors National Park with an illegally-set spring-trap attached to its leg.

The lamb was discovered on 8th August 2020 and was seen by a vet, who reported a nasty bone infection tracking up the lamb’s leg from the trap injury. A decision was taken to euthanise the stricken animal.

The use of this type of spring trap (a Fenn trap) became subject to new regulations in April this year as it is no longer considered humane for killing stoats. Gamekeepers have been urged to stop using them altogether in most situations and switch to a trap with a different design (e.g. see here and here).

Nevertheless, even if the operator of this particular trap had a defence for its lawful use, it would appear that it had still been set illegally if this lamb had managed to get its leg caught in it. Spring traps have to be placed inside a tunnel (artificial or natural) with excluders at each end to prevent non-target species entering the tunnel and getting caught.

Of course, even though the police are investigating this incident the chance of anyone being prosecuted is absolutely zero because it would be virtually impossible to determine who had set the trap. Even if there was a lawful requirement for the trap operator to have an identifying tag on the trap (which there isn’t), the police would still have enormous difficulty finding sufficient evidence to demonstrate it had been set by the operator and not by a third party.

What the police can do, though, is to visit the landowners in this area and ‘give them advice’ about the lawful use of traps.

Interestingly, this lamb was found on land close to Hutton-le-Hole, which is remarkably close to where the suspected poisoned sparrowhawk was reported a few days ago (here) and where a satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappeared’ in 2018 (see here).

Anyone with information about any of these cases, please contact PC Jez Walmsley at Malton Police Station on 101.

 

Sparrowhawk dies in suspected poisoning incident in North York Moors National Park

North Yorkshire Police press statement (24 August 2020)

Police urge vigilance after sparrowhawk shows symptoms of poisoning

Police are warning residents near Kirkbymoorside after a bird of prey died in circumstances that could suggest poisoning

A very unwell sparrowhawk was found by members of the public in woodland, just off Gillamoor Bank, close to Gillamoor village near Kirkbymoorside in Ryedale.

The bird appeared to be experiencing seizures and clenching its talons, and was taken locally for care, but died shortly after.

The symptoms shown by the bird suggest that poisons could have been involved in its death.

[Sparrowhawk, photo by Markus Varesvuo]

Officers from North Yorkshire Police are investigating the incident, and the dead bird has been accepted onto the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) for testing to establish the cause of death.

The WIIS investigates the deaths of wildlife and pet animals and beneficial invertebrates in the UK if there is evidence to suggest that they may have been poisoned or put at risk by pesticides.

The sparrowhawk was found earlier this month in a location very close to the village of Gillamoor, in woodland which includes a public footpath.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “At this time, we are keeping an open mind as to the cause of death. However, toxicology results may not be known for a number of weeks, so we want to make the community aware so they can take precautions to keep pets, children and themselves safe.

Once the results of the tests are known we will update the community, but for the time being dog owners should take care to keep their dogs on leads when in this area, and remain vigilant.”

If you have any information about this incident, contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 quoting reference 12200142198.

If you find a dead animal you believe may be contaminated, do not touch it – poisons can transfer through contact with skin – and keep children and pets well away. Instead, take photographs, obtain an exact location (for example, a grid reference or a What3words location) and contact the police.

ENDS

Here’s the location of Gillamoor village and the surrounding woodland, right next door to an area that appears to be managed for driven grouse shooting on the edge of the North York Moors National Park:

Obviously, the results of the toxicology tests are awaited before this incident can be confirmed as an illegal poisoning but let’s be honest, given North Yorkshire’s appalling reputation for the illegal killing of birds of prey, including inside its two National Parks, either by shooting, trapping or poisoning (e.g. see here, here, here and here), yet another victim would come as no surprise whatsoever.

TAKE ACTION

If you’re concerned about the level of illegal raptor persecution in the UK, especially the high incidence of killing that takes place on or close to driven grouse moors, you can sign this e-action which urges your politician to take note and actually do something about it.

Launched two weeks ago by three organisations: Wild Justice, the RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, so far over 84,000 people have signed up. All you need to do is enter your postcode and a polite, pre-written email will automatically be sent to your parliamentary representative asking them to stop ignoring this issue.

If you want to add your voice and give your elected politician a polite nudge, please sign up HERE and pass this link on to others.

Thank you

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